Compulsory Licensing for UK Private Investigators

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Currently the UK has no Licensing structure for Private Investigators.  This allows the industry to be abused by an element of  untrustworthy, unprofessional and uneducated individuals that are parasites on the community.  In 2000 the Government introduced a Law to regulate the Security Industry, which included the Investigation Sector.  Whilst successful legislation now works well for the members of the Security Industry the Investigation sector was largely ignored with no real progress towards Licensing of Private Investigators. Several earlier discussions, MP working parties and even The Leveson Enquiry highlighted the problems but nothing has become of it.

Trade Associations have attempted to step in an offer some 'government' over their members with Codes of Ethics and Disciplinary procedures but of the estimated 10000 Private Investigators currently practicing in the UK less than 15% are affiliated to any of the three recognised Associations, The World Association of Professional Investigators, The Association of British Investigators and The Institute of Professional Investigators.  That is not saying that those 85% are all untrustworthy, unprofessional or uneducated but it is safe to say that a portion of them are.

Those that prey on the members of the public using temporary (mostly anonymous) websites, social media, and other methods of advertising, offering to do everything and anything for a fee and either not performing their tasks or simply disappearing once the cash has been paid are causing extended misery for the general public who approach such Investigators in a vulnerable position. Licensing will immediately reduce and eventually prevent that happening as some form of identifiable checking would be in place.

Licensing the profession in itself need not be complicated.  All Investigators could apply for a License to Practice using loose criteria, a Disclosure and Barring Certificate (formerly CRB) along with some form of verifiable registration for example,  and once acquired the License then becoming theirs to lose.

Many Investigators throughout the UK effectively regulate themselves in this unregulated Industry but there remain those that don't and who are, simply put, criminals and causing both financial and emotional harm.  This has to stop !

The common image of the Private Investigator meeting people in pubs and car parks, taking cash for work that is either illegal or unethical is NOT the true Private Investigator of this day and age that undertakes wholly legal work and makes a professional living from his or her endeavours.

I have worked full time within this Industry for 42 years and have seen many changes within it but the one thing that has always been missing from it is the Licensing of those that wish to do it ethically and correctly. 

Tony Smith


The World Association of Professional Investigators